Separated by 10,000 miles, Boise State and Gorongosa National Park share a devotion to rural communities and bold ideas

“I thought, how can we expand that model where we’re partners in helping a country grow while giving our students the opportunity to be on the ground floor, to be part of nascent industries, and to make something significant happen? We want to create a lively, active living bridge between Boise State and Gorongosa National Park.” – Dr. Marlene Tromp

In the summer of 2021, Boise State President Marlene Tromp traveled to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. Her trip built upon a longstanding relationship between Boise, the university, and the park, according to the Boise State University website.

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In addition to its ecological mission, Gorongosa National Park provides social programs that benefit the people who live in nearby communities. Tromp wants to grow new partnerships with those programs focused on public health, nursing, education, and business while strengthening Boise State’s research presence and existing connections. Many Boise State students participate in research projects at the park. Several students from the Gorongosa region study at Boise State or serve internships with the Intermountain Bird Observatory.

The university has a model to follow, Tromp said. In the 1990s, Boise State helped establish Vietnam’s first business school. That partnership offers study opportunities at Boise State for Vietnamese undergraduates and an international residency in Vietnam for students in Boise State’s Executive MBA program.

Boise State President Marlene Tromp

Tromp shared more of her thoughts about the international partnership.

Q: Why is Boise State’s partnership with Gorongosa such a natural fit?

Tromp: We might not have said it was if it hadn’t been for Idaho’s existing engagement with the park (Zoo Boise opened its Gorongosa National Park exhibit in 2019. Conservation funds from the zoo have helped improve the Gorongosa animal preserve and local communities). But the other piece is that Mozambique is a largely rural country. Part of what’s exciting is imagining our students getting the chance to be in a small Idaho town, then to experience a rural community in Mozambique, to be able to reflect and think through those different landscapes.

Q: How does our presence in Gorongosa align with Boise State’s strategic plan?

Tromp: In so many ways. It’s partly about innovation, which is so fundamental to us. Gorongosa is a place where innovation comes to life. Just one example, when the park started to restore its elephant population, the elephants began moving into the villages, eating crops. Villagers were angry and wanted the park to find a solution. Park officials worked with scientists and animal behaviorists. They learned that elephants are afraid of bees. Villagers strung fences with bee boxes. If the elephants disturbed the fences, the bees would come out and the elephants would leave. Not only that, but villagers were able to harvest and sell the honey. The solution created a new source of income. Being able to see creative innovation in a place where it’s critical because resources are scarce, is profound.

The park also is a stimulus for research and creative activity. Think about how someone might become a better thinker and leader in their own rural community because they’ve experienced multiple kinds of rurality in their educational process. Studying at Gorongosa can help our students become better teachers, public health nurses, businesses leaders and they will bring those talents back to Idaho.

Read the full story here: A Living Bridge

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